SAGE Journal Articles
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Journal Article 2.1: Cain, M. J. G., & Dougherty, K. L. (1999). Suppressing Shays' rebellion: Collective action and constitutional design under the Articles of Confederation. Journal of Theoretical Politics, 11(2), 233–260.
Abstract: Under the Articles of Confederation, the American states frequently failed to pay their requisitions to the national government, sapping it of revenue. This paper explains the failure to raise revenue from the states by analyzing the system of requisitions in the context of Shays' Rebellion. Shays' Rebellion is of particular interest because it illustrates the clear conflict between common state interests and constitutional obligations on the one hand and the incentives to withhold contributions on the other. Our analysis shows that states had sufficient resources to fund a national army but did not contribute these resources to the nation. With adequate revenues within the states, the flaws of the Articles of Confederation were clearly revealed. The Articles failed to prevent free-riding among states, contributed to the disharmony of the union, and ultimately prevented Congress from accomplishing its constitutional tasks. These problems were not unique to the Articles. They result from voluntary requisition systems in general.
Abstract: Americans today may take the Bill of Rights for granted, but its inclusion in the U.S. Constitution originally was controversial. To understand why, I turn to James Wilson, a leading statesman of the founding era and the chief opponent of the Bill of Rights. Among other things, Wilson thought a bill of rights would bind future generations to an incomplete list of rights and deprive them of the right to define individual rights over time. His arguments against a constitutional bill of rights also offer a useful view of the complexity and diversity of American founding era thought.
Abstract: Recent studies of legislative gridlock espouse the importance of institutional design in separation-of-powers games. However, few scholars have focused on the effects of the adoption of the U.S. Constitution on legislative gridlock. This article attempts to fill that gap by determining whether the Constitution improved the marginal effect of the gridlock interval on the ability to change policy. Results suggest that policy is more responsive to the range of pivotal players (in both the negative and the positive direction) under the Constitution than under the Articles of Confederation, providing empirical evidence that it may be the superior design.